Archive for January, 2011

Sisters Sue Deorocki and Cathy Toomey have each had the opportunity to be living kidney donors. Cathy’s son Sean needed a kidney transplant when he was 21, and she stepped up. Years later, Sue, having seen everything Sean went through, donated a kidney to family friend Woody Cammett.

“I knew I wanted to help someone like that. It was a great experience and I couldn’t believe how good it felt to be able to do it,” Deorocki said. “Dialysis was awful. It’s no way to live. …

“I had seen what Cathy and Sean went through. I had just watched my best friend lose her son, who I was like a second mother to,” said Deorocki, referring to Holly Shay, whose son, Jordan, was killed in Iraq in 2009. “This was something I could do to help someone. …

She got tested to be a living kidney donor for Woody, but by then had decided she would donate a kidney to someone, even if she wasn’t a match for her friend.

“It was like therapy for me. I had people who thought I was crazy, but it’s not every day you get a chance to save someone’s life,” she said.

The kidney transplant surgery? No big woop, Sue says.

“People always ask if there are lasting effects, and beyond the tiny scars, there are none,” Deorocki said. “If anything, I’m surprised at how easy the whole process was.”

The kidney transplant was a big deal for Woody, though.

“The minute I was awake after surgery, I knew there was a difference,” he said. “You don’t realize how sick you are until you begin to feel better. I never really knew why I was so tired all the time, so cold. Now I have so much more energy.”

“Because of what Sue did, we can talk about the future again, and that’s something we couldn’t do for a long time,” Cammett’s wife, Marcia, said. “How can you ever thank someone for that? How do you say thank-you to someone who saved your life?”

My kidney sister Cara sends along the story of Brenda Bogue’s experience donating a kidney to a stranger.

I read the newspaper every day. … My journey began one day this past Summer when I came across an article about a man who lost his 16-year-old daughter tragically in a car accident. His daughter was an organ donor, and he was very inspired when he learned that her heart valves saved another person’s life. In her memory, he began to advocate for people to become organ donors.

Early on he learned of the need and opportunity to be a living kidney donor, and he did just this … which is what the article was about.

I, too, have made the decision to donate my organs when I die, but before reading the article this past Summer, I had no idea that it was possible to be a living kidney donor.  I also had no idea how many people were on the waiting list for a kidney, – 87,000 – and how many people were dying each year while waiting for one – approximately 5,000.

I was surprised to learn that a person can lead a normal life with only one kidney, and furthermore, I was encouraged to hear that the donor’s surgery is laparoscopic, which is less invasive than traditional surgery, with a much shorter recovery time.

Although there are always risks with any surgery, being a living kidney donor overall is very safe.

I am a Christian, and therefore I seek out God’s wisdom through prayer before making any big decisions.  Before I even finished reading the newspaper article, I felt God prompting me to consider being a living kidney donor.

I imagined what it would be like to have a family member whose kidneys were failing and in need of a kidney transplant, knowing that without it his/her quality of life would be greatly compromised and significantly shortened.  Undoubtedly, a few of my family members would step up to donate, but what if we learned that none of us were are a match; which unfortunately occurs about 30% of the time.  We would be disheartened; hope is lost. The average wait for a deceased donor kidney is five years.

But then our family learns of the concept of “kidney pairing,” which gives a person in need of a kidney a much better chance of receiving one, if they have a person willing to donate their kidney to another person who is a match.  We have hope again!

My decision to be a living kidney donor came after praying to God for guidance, talking with my husband Mike, and sister Stacey, putting myself “in the other person’s shoes,” and reflecting on the forty-three years of good health that God has blessed me with…for me it was a fairly easy decision.

In the subsequent weeks, I did some further research on the internet on the subject of being a living kidney donor. This included reading about the experiences of two recent donors, Cara Yesawich and Angela Stimpson. I found their blog sites to be very informative and inspiring. Another valuable site with a wealth of information is The Living Kidney Donors network.  There is a wealth of information on this site for both those needing a kidney and for living donors.  Harvey Mysel, founder of the non-profit organization, is a kidney recipient himself and I printed several articles from the site for my family to read so they could fully understand the process.

A very valuable source of information and support to me during my journey in being a living kidney donor, was the mentoring I received from Cara Yesawich.  Cara is an altruistic kidney donor who was the domino for eight people to receive a kidney in largest kidney pairing of Northwestern Hospital’s history.  She is very passionate about being a mentor for others who are on this journey, and in helping to raise the awareness of the need for living kidney donors.

She “walked me through,” each step of my journey and came to the hospital to offer her support immediately following my surgery, what a blessing she was to me!  For anyone considering being a living kidney donor, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the “gift” of mentorship and I welcome the opportunity to share my experience with anyone.

Please feel free to e-mail me at:

My surgery was on December 30; I am an altruistic donor, and three people were able to receive a kidney in my pairing at Northwestern Hospital.  Everything went as planned; I spent one night in the hospital.  I experienced moderate pain the first several days and slept a lot.  After about a week I turned the corner and was able to return to work half days (my energy still wasn’t back 100%).

I was back to work full-time the third week and now I am about four weeks out from the surgery and feel back to normal. I plan on starting to run again in a week or two and am registered to run another marathon in September.

I received a beautiful card from the family of the gentleman who received my kidney in the kidney pairing …  part of it reads:

“Dear Brenda,

It is impossible to thank someone for a gift such as you have given to us.  Dialysis allowed my dad to live but your gift of a kidney has given him a renewed quality of life worth living, and for that we are eternally grateful….”

The sacrifice that I made in donating one of my kidneys was minimal, compared to the gift of an improved quality of  life which I was able to give to someone else.

Kristine Cvar and Eileen Burkholder are elementary school principals in the same district. Now they have even more in common. When Kristine’s kidneys failed, Eileen offered to be a living kidney donor.

“She just all of a sudden came and wanted to do something good – and this was something that’s hard to do, to give up an organ for someone else.

“It’s just very touching because it’s not someone I would have expected it from,” Cvar said, her voice full of emotion. “I was really blessed and fortunate to have her.”

Their other co-workers chipped in, too, donating their sick time so that Kristine could take off an entire semester to recover.

“Our school district family really stepped up in this situation,” said Assistant Superintendent Chris Forehan. “To me, that’s what a family is all about.”

The surgery behind them, the women are back to regular life.

“I just feel normal – and I haven’t felt like this in a very long time,” Cvar said.

Now Eileen wants more people to consider being a living kidney donor.

“It’s worth it to save a life,” she said. “I wouldn’t have considered it if I didn’t have my faith and the belief that you should love your neighbor as yourself. This was me thinking that I could show Kris how much God loves her.

“A lot of times, people don’t do what’s right,” she said. “But on Aug. 3, I did.”

Read more:Transplant recipient back on the job after La Mirada school principal donates kidney – Whittier Daily News

Pam Silvestri has been working in public relations on behalf of organ donation for the past 15 years. Through that, she met kidney recipient Jennifer Cox. Jennifer’s kidney from a deceased donor began to fail, and Pam had a big decision to make.

She got tested to be a living kidney donor for Jennifer, and they matched. (There are only a handful of factors in matching a kidney.) So she told Jennifer, who is also a co-worker at Southwest Transplant Alliance, not to worry about finding a kidney.

“I don’t worry,” Jennifer said. “God is going to take care of me.”

“He is,” Pam replied. “And he’s going to use me.”

Jennifer was speechless. “What do you say? I was just: ‘Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.’ “

Meanwhile, Jennifer and Pam are promoting two new programs at Southwest Alliance, an altruistic donor program and a kidney swap program. Both are excellent ways to increase the number of kidney transplants.

Good luck with the transplant and your new programs, ladies.

article gives a good overview of living kidney donation
in the UK, especially for potential living donors who’d like to
donate to a stranger. Check it out.

Thanks to an alert reader, I learned that the above is a sidebar to the real article, the story of Di Franks, who recently pushed through the system to donate one of her kidneys to a stranger. Until pretty recently, donation by strangers was not allowed in the UK.

“I wanted to change someone’s life, I had two perfectly healthy kidneys so why shouldn’t someone have one of mine.”

The article is worth a read. Lots of great quotes from Di. She didn’t get to meet her recipient but knows that he or she is doing well.

Congrats to Di Franks for swimming upstream and doing something extraordinary.

Jose Barrientos and Brad Tarrance teach together at an elementary school. They got to talking at a party, and when she learned that Jose needed a kidney transplant, Brad’s wife, Lindsay, offered to be a living kidney donor.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” Barrientos said. “It was just, you know, an angel. Why we crossed paths? Maybe this was the reason.”

Their surgery is today. Crossing my fingers!

Yisrael Konstantini thought he’d gotten all the transplant good fortune he was entitled to when he received a heart transplant. Then he found out he needed a kidney. Through his faith, he was able to find a living kidney donor in Mendy Mathless.

The article is an in-depth look at Yisrael’s experience of receiving such an amazing gift, closing with this about Mendy:

Mendy modestly told me that he did it with the belief that this is what should be done and that one should always think about others, about others’ pain. He said, “I have two kidneys and I can live a full life with one. Why did Hashem give me two kidneys? So that if I see a Jew in need of a kidney to live, I can give him one of mine. Boruch Hashem, I am healthy and don’t make too much of it, I am not the first one in the world to do this. Seeing you healthy is my reward.”

When Yehudis Baron’s kidneys began to fail from lupus, her mom, Henya Meyer, knew what to do. She was tested to be a living kidney donor.

“The doctors kept asking you me: ‘You want to give a kidney?’ For me it was black-and-white facts. I had to do this for her. They seemed to be happy with that.”

Three weeks post-kidney transplant, Yehudis is looking forward to the future.

“I’m looking forward to being much more hands-on with my children. While I was very unwell over the past year they always knew I was available, but I was unable to run the house as much or work. But now my kids run up the stairs after school screaming ‘Mummy’. They are so pleased to have me home.”

Increasing numbers of kidney donations are taking place through paired donations. People who have a willing but incompatible loved one swap kidneys so that everyone ends up with a life-saving transplant.

UNOS recently jumped into the process, adding a wide-reaching registry that promises thousands of matches per year.

“As we think about health care reform, there are very few things in health care that we can point to that both save lives, make people better, and actually cost less money,” Dartmouth Dr. David Axelrod told the AP. “Kidney transplantation is one of them.”

The beneficiaries of the service’s first paired kidney transplant were Kathy Niedzwiecki and Ken Crowder. Their kidneys crossed paths here in Pittsburgh.

Niedzwiecki said she hopes her successful experience will help increase awareness about kidney-paired donation.

“The kidney is the only body part that we have that kind of control over,” she said. “You only need one to survive — you can’t do this with any other body part, but you can do it with a kidney. I know adults and children everywhere who are waiting for kidneys. The more awareness that is out there about this paired donation, the better the system will be.”

I look forward to many more success stories from this program.

Cari Mutnick had the opportunity to save her dad, Joel’s, life by donating one of her kidneys. Now she’s making a strong statement about her own health. Cari has signed up for the Disney Half-Marathon.

“I had done a 5K [five kilometers, or 3.1 miles] before the surgery, but I had walked the whole way,” said Cari, 28. “I played sports before, intramurals in college, but was not overly active. … I just realized that even though everything went well [with the transplant], you never know what life was going to throw at you,” Cari said of how the surgery changed her. “I woke up with a new outlook.”

Donating a kidney changed Cari quite a lot.

“I learned from the surgery that I am stronger than I thought I was,” she said. “I can handle more than I thought I could. This is just one goal of mine. I don’t think I will become a marathoner. It will open doors for other things. Who knows what I can accomplish?”

Keep going, Cari!